T H E H I S T O R Y O F A G L O B A L F I N A N C I A L G R O U P
1822, 1848, 1966 or 2000? When did the BNP Paribas Group first emerge? Officially, we are one of Europe s youngest banking groups, formed in 2000 through a merger between the major merchant bank Paribas and BNP, the number one bank in France. However, BNP, the French core, was established in 1966 under the name Banque Nationale de Paris through the merger of two French banks dating back to 1848. Moreover, BNP Paribas Fortis, the Group s Belgian subsidiary, can trace its origins all the way back to 1822.
Banque Nationale de Paris: a bank born of a dual revolution in 1848
A number of deposit and lending banks were set up in 1848 to remedy the credit freeze which France experienced as a result of the 1848 Revolution. Two of these institutions are direct forerunners of the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP): Comptoir National d Escompte de Paris (CNEP) was set up through a joint initiative by the public authorities and a group of private partners, among whom were the foremost Parisian printers and publishers, including Louis Hachette, and entrepreneurs such as Alphonse Pinard. Comptoir National d Escompte de Mulhouse was set up on the initiative of textile and manufacturing entrepreneurs in Alsace, a region in the east of France.
These establishments triggered the banking revolution which took place during the 1850s and 1860s. This was the time when ordinary people gained access to general banking and borrowing services through the creation of the large deposit banks. These new institu- tions attracted dormant savings and recycled them into the economy, notably through bill discounting and short-term lending to businesses. A range of new services also became available to middle class individuals: cashier services, renting of safe deposit boxes, cheques, securities depositories, letters of credit, and so on. What was new was that banks now worked face-to-face with their customers through networks of branches. The CNEP headquarters, whose construction began in 1878, was a highly visible symbol of the bank s presence in the city of Paris.
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